The quality of research 'packages'

12 May 2005

I’m a bit of a market research participant junkie. Whenever, I’m at home and they (market researchers) ring up and I fail the qualifying questions (say, for not being the person with the next birthday) I’m always disappointed. I enjoy doing surveys because they tell me a lot about what businesses are thinking. So, I’m usually happy to participate. I also like to give the researchers some feedback on their survey instrument—in fact I’m not shy about doing that at all.

As it happens, in my in-tray I have requests from two different New Zealand tertiary institutions who wish to survey the students in the Auckland MBA program. The difference between the two “packages” is striking.

The first package is well presented. The covering letter, participant information sheet, and the survey itself are well presented, with problems. The documentation clearly explains what is required and answers all of the questions I have about the research and the researcher. They survey instrument is well constructed and (based on my own experiences) will get a fairly good return rate, and allow some robust analysis. In many ways, it is everything a solid piece of research should be (from the participants’ point of view). Generally, I feel very positive towards this researcher and their research.

The second package is not well presented. The participant information is missing; and so, many important questions, such as “how long will this take?” are not addressed. There are errors in the grammar and syntax of both the covering letter and the survey itself. The survey reads like a fishing trip and request quite sensitive information from both students and me. Some of the questions are quiet weak, e.g. “What are the criteria for your school to choose best quality MBA students and faculty?“—this is really two questions, and it is making a whole raft of assumptions which can invalidate the question.

Unlike the first package, the second package makes one question the professionalism of the researcher, and I’m left feeling unsure about the researcher—there is an issue of trust here—which makes me tentative about agreeing to the research especially when the sensitive nature of the questions are considered. Do I really want to tell someone like this the answer to “How would you design a strategy for your business school to compete with others in New Zealand?”